The Top 25 Albums Of 2021 (So Far): Sons Of Kemet - 'Black To The Future'

1 July 2021 | 3:15 pm | Tiana Speter

'The Music' team on the releases you need to hear from 2021.

More Sons Of Kemet More Sons Of Kemet

While the past year and a half has been heavily dominated by news of COVID-19, the ousting of Trump and celebrities losing touch with reality, the sharp continuation of the Black Lives Matter movement onto the world stage has sparked controversy, support, debate, and/or, in the case of London-born saxophonist and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings, significant ripples in the world of art and music. 

Already highly revered for his dabblings in soul prog and spiritual jazz peering fondly into the past, Hutchings latest album Black To The Future via his soca-influenced jazz project Sons Of Kemet resets sights firmly on the “now”, bringing onboard an array of vocalists and rappers from both the UK and the US to conjure an approachable yet thought-provoking album to unite and incite conversation about collective oppression.

You’d be forgiven for assuming the brash and bold sounds pulsing through your ears throughout Black To The Future is an undertaking of a full big band; but, in fact, these combustive tones come courtesy of a stacked quartet, with two horns and two percussionists vividly bursting to life alongside the array of guests across the album to round out proceedings. And for the project’s fourth full-length release, there’s plenty to unpack and absorb, as Black To The Future relishes in modernity a la UK garage raves and hip hop amid the more traditional brass-heavy Calypso flair.

While instrumentally scintillating, via some rhythmic wizardry and breathtaking brass, it’s interesting to witness how Hutchings and his team find a way to balance celebratory jazz and world music, while still giving a very real and human voice to the urgent themes and subject matter underpinning the overall album. If there was any doubt as to the undertones of resistance and the struggle for self-determination, Black To The Future’s introductory track Field Negus itself features ardent narration from Joshua Idehen recorded during the Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s death. What follows beyond the intro is an enthralling yet provoking journey, soundtracked by blend of jazz, rap, funk, soul, grime, dub, Afrobeat and calypso. On paper, the sonic brew is enough to make this album remarkably memorable; but ultimately, and far more importantly, the most enriching take away from Black To The Future is the sobering depiction of oppression, then and now, alongside a occasional moments of hope for the future.

Black To The Future is undeniably a potent triumph that transcends its remarkable construction, advocating for change and understanding, alongside power and healing.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter